Modern day “prophets,” are they for real?

I suppose it is a burning, if not consuming, question that has once again become relevant as so many of us are looking for meaning and direction in a modern world. Events, circumstances, and unforeseen realities have released a floodgate of “modern day prophets.” Which is to say, the claim is being made by many that “special” prophecy received from the Holy Spirit is revealing new direction, new purpose, and in some cases, even a political directive. The real question is: “Is God speaking something new, or different, than what He has already communicated to man?”

The prophecies recorded by Holy Spirit inspiration in the Old Testament reveal much about God, and how He has used prophecy to reveal His will. Amos prophesied that those who abandon care for those in need would be judged harshly (Amos 8:4). Isaiah prophesied that God’s people are to seek and facilitate social justice (Isaiah 1:17). Micah prophesied that God’s people will be tested, and then blessed, by the measure of their kindness and compassion (Micah 6:8). Prophecies revealed in Scripture always correspond to activity God is doing, ideals that God inspires in His people, and most often contain a warning of false prophets who would twist the truth and either add to, or take away from, the intended will of God.

Towards the end of the Savior’s earthly ministry, Jesus’ disciples came to Him with several questions concerning the future: “Later, Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives. His disciples came to him privately and said, “Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will signal your return and the end of the world?” Jesus told them, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many” (Matt. 24:3–5, NLT). Another way that “false prophets” operate is to claim a special revelation, or message, apart from what is recorded in Scripture. You might hear them say, “the Holy Spirit told me,” or “God spoke to my heart” a new “prophecy.” But, do the Scriptures support the idea that God still communicates this way?

Paul, the Apostle, teaches that “Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself” (Ephesians 2:20, NLT). Which is to say, all we need to know for salvation and sanctification has been given to us through the teaching of the apostles and prophets, and that this teaching is now found in the Scriptures. Now that God has spoken in the last days through his Son (Heb. 1:2), we don’t need further words from him to explain what Jesus Christ has accomplished in his ministry, death, and resurrection. Instead, we are “urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people” through the apostles and prophets (Jude 3).

Prior to the appearance of Christ, the Holy Spirit communicated to prophets the will of God. “Above all, you must realize that no prophecy in Scripture ever came from the prophet’s own understanding, or from human initiative. No, those prophets were moved by the Holy Spirit, and they spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:20-21, NLT). In the New Testament, Jesus communicated the will of God with great power, and authority. “All authority has been given to me” Jesus declares boldly as He commissions His disciples to spread the gospel (Matthew 28:18-20, NLT). The Holy Spirit empowered Jesus’ Apostles to “speak” (or prophesy) on His behalf (Acts 2). The Apostles possessed the gift of laying on hands to impart spiritual gifts (Acts 6:6, Acts 13:3; and 1 Timothy 4:14). Those receivers of spiritual gifts (prophecy) from the Apostles did not possess the authority to pass along this gift. Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 13:8-10 that “Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless” (NLT).

Before you entertain a “prophecy” that is new, or is an addition to the canon of Scripture, beware that in doing so you may bring judgement on yourself. “Let God’s curse fall on anyone, including us or even an angel from heaven, who preaches a different kind of Good News than the one we preached to you” (Galatians 1:8, NLT). Are “modern day prophets” for real? They are only if their teaching squares with God’s Word, but then it wouldn’t be “prophecy.” If it purports a “special revelation,” apart from the inspired text, then you can be certain that it is of human origin, and not the will of God.

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